I do not have to repeat here the reactions in Ireland to the Cloyne Report and the realisation that the Roman Catholic Church continued its inappropriate response to clerical sex abuse. It is covered in many places. One Irish newspaper published a photograph of the Pope with “Persona Non Grata” superimposed on his image. There are recommendations ranging from the dissolution of the monasteries to the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio and the severing of all links with the Vatican.

Ireland may become the first country to over-rule the seal of sacramental confession.

Compulsory reporting of child abuse proposed in a new bill which will be presented later in the year will make no exception for the seal of confession. Justice Minister Alan Shatter has warned that he will not tolerate an exemption for the confessional. His stance has received the support of Enda Kenny, the prime minister, who told reporters, ‘The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar’.

Under the plans put forward by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, priests could be jailed for up to five years for failing to disclose information on serious offences against a child even if this was obtained during confession.

Anglicans and others have the same approach to the seal of confession as Roman Catholics. The regulation for NZ Anglicans reads:

The priest exercises this ministry in complete confidentiality. The penitent is therefore able to confess in the assurance that the priest will not refer to the matter again, except at the penitent’s request, and under no circumstances will ever repeat to any other person what has been divulged.

What appears to me to be occasionally missed is that the priest cannot even refer back about what was confessed to the penitent. The priest cannot say, “how is it going with…?”

The otherwise-excellent movie Priest took me aback when the priest referred back to something from the confessional to the person who had been confessing.

What are people’s thoughts about the Irish law (it had previously been suggested in Australia but dropped)? what are people’s experiences of priests referring back to what was previously confessed? What has the formation and training been like in the ministry of confession? And around the seal of confession?

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